Is San Francisco Giants' Jordan Hicks Transition Experiment Working?

The San Francisco Giants signed Hicks to transition from the bullpen to the rotation and it has been working very well.
Jun 11, 2024; San Francisco, California, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Jordan Hicks (12) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Houston Astros at Oracle Park. Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 11, 2024; San Francisco, California, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Jordan Hicks (12) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Houston Astros at Oracle Park. Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports / Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
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Before the 2024 season, the San Francisco Giants signed Jordan Hicks to a four year deal worth $44 million. Hicks has been one of the most electric pitchers in baseball since his debut in 2018, the only difference was that he was a reliever. He and the Giants wanted him to be a starter. And the change has been well worth the multi-year deal.

As a reliever over six seasons, Hicks boasted one of the best sinkers in baseball. He was consistently sitting 100 mph, even reaching 105 at one point. He collected 32 saves in his time as a reliever with a 3.65 ERA and 9.5 K/9.

In 2022, while a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, he and the team first tried him out as a starter, but it did not go well. In eight starts, he struggled to throw strikes, walking 21 batters and hit five in 26.1 innings, but only struck out 25, pitching to an overall 5.47 ERA in his starts.

When it was announced that the Giants would be using Hicks as a starter, there was obvious skepticism. After all, he had been a reliever his entire career outside of eight starts that went poorly.

The team had Logan Webb coming into the season after finishing runner-up in the Cy Young, the top left handed pitching prospect in the league, as well as Blake Snell, Alex Cobb and Robbie Ray joining the rotation at some point. It seemed that maybe the experiment wouldn't last very long, but that has not been the case. Hicks has proved, without a doubt, he can be a starter.

There have been some notable differences from 2023 for Hicks in his new role. The first, and most notable, is his sinker velocity. In 2023, his average was sitting at 100 mph, but that has dropped to 95 mph. Normally, that kind of drop in velocity would be a cause for concern. In this case, it's simply a matter of not exerting himself fully to be able to as far into games as he can.

Additionally, he has dropped the usage of the sinker by nearly 13 percent. In its place, the right hander has greatly increased the use of his splitter. From 1.6 percent in 2023 to 23.1 percent in 2024, it has become the pitch he uses the second most often, and for good reason. So far this season, it has a 39.3 percent whiff percentage, the most of any of his pitches.

The rest of his arsenal changes haven't been nearly as dramatic, but the right hander has also cut his slider completely in favor of the sweeper, as well as dropping his four-seam fastball rate by five percent.

Aside from the obvious role change, Hicks has become a completely different pitcher. He isn't the reliever that leaves it all out on the mound for one inning at a time. He has already thrown the second most innings of his career.

As for his numbers, Hicks has seemingly become a better overall pitcher. His strikeout numbers are down, with just a 8.0 K/9, but nearly everything else has improved. So far in 2024, he has put up a career best walk rate (3.0 BB/9), ERA (3.01) and his 1.20 WHIP is his best since 2019.

All in all, it's safe to say the Giants made one of the better, surprising moves of the offseason. Hicks has become a very important part of the San Francisco rotation and an extremely reliable starter. They took a chance and it has paid dividends.


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Sean O'Leary

SEAN O'LEARY